Wii U systems crash. Nintendo blames online update.

A firmware update for the Nintendo Wii U takes longer to download than many users would have liked – and may even cause the Wii U console to 'brick.' 

Nintendo
A fan purchases one of the first Wii U systems in the world at the midnight launch event at Nintendo World in New York on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012.

The good news: On Sunday, Nintendo officially launched its long-awaited Nintendo Wii U console. The not-so-good news: A firmware update necessary for online play has taken some users hours to download, and in a few cases, has apparently "bricked" the machine – irrevocably breaking it, basically. 

According to a handful of tweets and message board posts (hat tip to Ars Technica), the problem occurs if the power or Internet signal cuts off while the 5 GB update is being installed. Among those affected was Ben Fritz, a tech writer for The Los Angeles Times

"Wii U has stopped functioning before I managed to play a single game. I tried to stop an interminable software update and now... nothing," Fritz tweeted yesterday. "On a related note, anybody in the market for a big black paperweight?" he joked later. 

It's worth noting that plenty of folks have criticized Fritz and others for attempting to stop the firmware update at all. As one of Fritz's followers wrote, "It's common sense to not interrupt an update. Surely you should know this." 

In an interview with the BBCChris Green, a technology analyst at Davies Murphy Group, struck much the same note. "I'm afraid it's a case of 'buyer beware' to those who try to cancel the update part way through – that would mess up any hardware," he said. 

Still, the long load times for the firmware update and the widespread bricking reports have cast a pall of sorts over the Wii U launch. Nintendo, for its part, has cautioned users to keep the Wii U running while the system is updating; it's not immediately clear what will happen to consumers who have seen their new device turn into a "big black paperweight," as Fritz put it. 

The Wii U has received generally good marks among critics, although some have cautioned holding fire before picking up a machine. 

"Wait until the 'launch window' closes at the end of March and the likes of Pikmin 3Lego City Undercover and a slew of interesting download-only games are available," one reviewer wrote. "With any new console you might be wisest to give it a year, especially if you want to be able to compare it to what Sony and Microsoft have coming next. And if they don't put screens in their controllers, know right now that Nintendo will have at least that excellent advantage over them." 

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